Books · Read-Along

War and Peace Newbies Read-Along: Check-In #1

In the spring semester of my junior year in college, I took a Victorian British Novels class.  On the first day of class my professor said that anyone who stayed after the first week had to be a masochist because those six novels were, um…long, you could say.  We read Bleak HouseVillette, MiddlemarchJude the ObscureNorth and South, and Howards End.  On average we read 250 pages per class, and we met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Well, obviously I stayed, so it seems I must be a masochist.

Looks like I’m in for a repeat.

pierre1.gif
Same, Pierre.  Same.

I’m participating in Laura’s War and Peace Newbies Read-Along, which you can find out about over at Reading in Bed.  Anyone with the will to participate is welcome to join, whether you’ve read it before or not.  It has already started and technically runs from July through September, but you’re welcome to start late if you’re willing to catch up!  We’re reading about 125 pages a week, which is doable as long as you don’t get behind.

I’m reading the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace.  I’m reading it on my Kindle because (1) it’s really long, coming in at 1275 pages, and not conducive to lugging around; (2) I need to check the footnotes and endnotes a lot; and (3) I know I’m going to have to look up a lot of words.  I also own this gorgeous copy in paperback, but that’s just going to sit prettily on my shelf.

After making it through the first few chapters, I got used to checking the footnotes for the translations of the French passages–and let me tell you, there are a lot of those.  I never regretted not taking French classes before this moment.

So far, there’s mostly talk about war, how terrible (or, in Pierre’s case, how great) Napoleon is, and the ever-present class struggles.  I don’t really want to give away any spoilers just yet, in case anyone decides to join in.  But, up to this point in the novel, all of the dashing (and not so dashing) young men are preparing to go off to war, some illicit love affairs are beginning, there are some drunken shenanigans, Natasha hollers out at the dinner table (the hoyden!), someone dies, and Pierre is no longer as illegitimate as he was at the beginning of the book.  Among other things.

I’ll be reading from Mondays to Sundays and then posting my thoughts and whatnot on the following Monday.  For example, I read Volume I, Part I from July 3-9 and I’m posting this on July 10.  This is the same posting schedule that Laura is using, and I figured it would be easiest to follow hers.  It comes out to about 17 pages a day, which is totally doable–as long as I don’t get behind.

Check out Laura’s corresponding post, which is much more detailed and humorous than mine, to get an idea of what the fuss is all about!

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Andrei and Pierre, having a good ol’ swig o’ the spirits, which you might need before heading into this novel
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6 thoughts on “War and Peace Newbies Read-Along: Check-In #1

  1. I had to look up “hoyden” and wow, that’s a useful term! I’ve been calling Natasha a dork, but hoyden kind of sums it up. Have to remind myself she’s only 13. I’m lugging the Vintage paperback, but yeah, it’s not exactly purse size, is it??

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  2. Oooh, this is the first time I’ve seen your particular paperback version. W&P has to be one of the most consistently well designed books I’ve seen. Lots of versions, all seem to be nice.

    I’m curious: do you find the footnotes helpful, or are they getting in the way. My version (the Everyman’s Library 3-volume version) doesn’t have any footnotes. I don’t mind it so far.

    Oh, and kudos on “hoyden.” There’s a new word.

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    1. Personally, I find the footnotes to be very helpful because I don’t know much about the Napoleonic Wars. Tolstoy often mentions a name I’ve never heard of, but the footnotes explain who those people are. Could I still get by without them? Probably. But I wouldn’t understand the novel half as well.

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